When a group of immigration activists and children of immigrants flooded Senate President Mike Haridopolos office on Tuesday, the Republican leader diffused the situation by meeting them and chatting with the kids.
But he steadfastly refused to heed their call to use his power and stop an immigration bill winding through the Legislature. Haridopolos told the crowd that the matter is in the hands of his fellow senators, and that they drive the process.
Behind closed doors, though, Haridopolos was laying the groundwork to weigh in and take the bill away from Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, who held numerous public hearings and produced a consensus product that stopped well short of an Arizona-style immigration bill.
“The Senate president and I had discussions earlier in the week that Sen. (JD) Alexander may take this over,” Flores acknowledged last night after Haridopolos announced Alexander would handle the legislation from here on out.
That’s the opposite of what the activists wanted, but it’s what grassroots conservatives had hoped for. Haridopolos needs their support in his run for U.S. Senate. .
“It is clear that the Senate has decided to take a different position on the bill. I’m not aware of what that position is. I’m eager to see what these proposals may be,” said Flores, who was one of the first state senators to endorse Haridopolos’ Senate candidacy.
Will she vote against the legislation that she essentially sponsored? Flores wouldn’t say. She doesn’t favor a stricter House plan, but she said she needs to see the legislation first.
“Anything can happen in the last few days of session,” she said.
Session’s end is also a time when nerves are raw and tensions can run high – especially with an issue like immigration. Haridopolos’ move – using a Hispanic caucus member for political cover before stripping the bill from her -- is seen by some as a case of him big-footing senators for his political gain, and it’s not going over too well in the chamber.
But outside Capitol Circle, an immigration crackdown is good politics. It polls well. And Haridopolos can't afford to appease a handful of senators (who obey him anyway) at the expense of turning off Republican base voters.